Black Girl Magic is so real. My late mother embodied it, radiated it and taught other young women how to find theirs too. She was a phenomenal woman and educator who had more magic coursing through her body than I was capable of understanding at age nine when she suddenly succumbed to breast cancer. Like every little girl, I believed she was amazing simply because she was my mother. I just knew that I loved her and she loved me, and her presence made everyone around her happier. That was enough.

Then, one day she was gone and all that I had left to cherish and dissect was her memory. As an adolescent I was haunted by my unimaginable loss and the void that her passing left behind in my world. Listening to others talk about how wonderful and impactful my mother was only reminded me of what was missing from my world—a mother’s love and the moments that love creates. It hurt so much that I would silently pout inside when others brought up her memory. I wanted them to stop reminding me of all that was lost. I blame that on grief.

Thankfully, as time went on, I was able to heal and see exactly what I’d missed before: my mother’s love had touched so many other people’s lives in ways that made them greater. Because of that, when they see me, they want to share the pieces of her magic that she has given them, so that I will never forget her or the things that she stood for. The very tales I’d tried so hard to reject in my mind were suddenly all that I ever wanted to hear. Through others retelling her life and her stories I found new meaning in it. I absorbed many of the lessons I know she would have wanted to teach me. Although she was an outstanding writer and a devoted teacher, I believe in my heart that her greatest gift was that her magic wore off on everyone she came into contact with, and therefore it lived on to speak to me—through them—at the points in my life when I needed it most. Which is why I also choose to believe that she left her legacy behind to raise me when she could not. Whether she could have known that would happen or not, it was brilliant, and the ultimate blessing.

Those who knew her best knew that her legacy of strength, integrity and love could inspire others even in her absence. In her memory, the college where she taught English could have named a bench or a tree after her, but it was no coincidence that they chose to name the new writing lab after her instead. It was the place on campus where others came for inspiration and to create and therefore where I’m certain her spirit would have lingered.

Who we are on this Earth is who others will inevitably remember us to be whenever fond memories are exchanged among friends and loved ones, but it is the legacy we create that will go on to impact and teach others long after we are gone. I can tell you that living without her hasn’t sucked any less as I’ve grown into the woman she would have wanted me to be, but feeling the magic of her legacy rub off on me vicariously through others’ memories of her, has done an incredible job of easing the pain. It’s propped me up and propelled me forward. Her magic is timeless, and I chose to believe that she is at peace knowing that she sprinkled enough of it into my world to go on to help raise me even when she could not. Now that is the true power of Black Girl Magic. What could be more wonderful?

Charli Penn is’s resident Love and Relationships Editor. Find her on Twitter or Instagram to continue the conversation.

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